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Published November 11th 2015

Industry Insider: Unpicking The Innovation Paradigm

It turns out that being innovative simply isn't innovative enough. Chris Owen tells us why.

Last week in Dublin the Web Summit conference showcased quite how vibrant the start-up economy is right now.

Be it financial, property, education, marketing, machine, enterprise, or healthcare; there are any number of companies setting out to solve problems in all manner of novel, simple-yet-effective means.

Granted, there seem to also be a fair amount trying to solve problems that don’t exist, but that’s another article for another time.

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However, one recurring theme among them is the use of ‘innovative’ to describe much of what they do – a habit which is also prevalent among established, global brands also.

Innovation isn’t innovative

Taking a look at the Inter Brand Index of global brands, and you can Google almost any alongside the word ‘innovative’ and be taken to a dedicated page about how the company is defining and differentiating itself through innovation.

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The technology brands in the list (Google, Apple, Samsung, Intel, Microsoft), you’d expect to see this from, but others – FMCG brands – in the top ten such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola also have defined areas showcasing their ‘innovation’.

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The problem is, if differentiation is ubiquitous then it goes without saying that it’s not a differentiation point any more.

Instead, ‘innovation’ has become a brand paradigm – it’s part and parcel of almost any brand you could think of; if anything because which brand wouldn’t be innovative?

Factor, not focus

Which brand wouldn’t be trying to push the boundaries of its sector and find new means to reinvigorate the market and trail-blaze new ideas and approaches?

Despite this, innovation remains a primary brand position for many companies, despite this putting them up against every other in the market and beyond – it’s one of thousands of cars trying to park in one car parking space.

Instead, brands need to consider innovation an accepted element of branding in the consumer’s eye – it’s a factor not a focus – leaving them clear to differentiate on truly meaningful and truly unique aspects of what the company does.

You don’t have the likes of car makers differentiating on having four wheels – why are brands trying to do so on something so equally integral?

Chris is a regular contributor to the Brandwatch Blog. Find out more about Grayling by clicking here.

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